I don’t write about much that is personal. I feel that people ought to know Jesus, not me. But sometimes a personal post is warranted. I think this one is.
I came to the Lord in January 2004.
At the end of 2004 I sat down to write my goals for the upcoming year. I write a lot but I’ve never been big on journals. Introspection is not my suit and so journaling is wasted on me. Even re-reading my marine navigation logs and my travel journals, they are filled with data and facts, not what I thought or felt at the time.
So the other month I was cleaning out and re-organizing my bookshelves. I found some old papers. You don’t throw out old papers without going through them, there could be something irreplaceable in there.
Imagine my surprise when I saw an index card with a list of annual goals on it. I don’t think I’d ever written down goals, I usually just remember them.
When we pray to Jesus we ask for things. “Give us this day our daily bread…” “Forgive us our sins”,
|Crosses in Gipuzkoa, Hernio, Basque autonomous region. CC|
“Lead us not into temptation…” We know He is listening. We know He will fulfill them as long as they are consistent with His will. “Thy will be done.” We also know that He answers our prayers in ways we can never have imagined at the time, but in looking back we see that He did it perfectly for who we are or what the situation needed.
The plans of the diligent lead surely to abundance, but everyone who is hasty comes only to poverty. (Proverbs 21:5)
The most obvious example of what I’m trying to say is that we pray for healing for a loved one, and then they die. Jesus has healed them- just not in the way we expected.
For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? (Luke 14:28)
So in that December I knew that the upcoming year was going to be a big year. I knew huge changes in my life were afoot. I could feel it.
To give a little context, I’d started a weekly newspaper in town in 2001. There was only one paper there at the time and I felt that a more balanced view should be given to the people. Let’s just say that their multi-decade monopoly had warped their view and it was seriously detrimental to the townspeople. I’m very committed to Constitutional ideals, good government, and the citizen’s democratic responsibility as free individuals enjoying liberty in the greatest nation on earth. I thought my newspaper could exhort, educate, encourage, and inform in the face of these ideals and goals. Apathy is anathema to Democracy.
Here were my goals:
1. Serve the greater good
2. Other newspaper go out of business
3. Sell my newspaper to a good company
4. Place in FL/Lubec
5. Earn $ from creative endeavor
Looking back, Jesus answered each one.
But none in the way I expected.
The ones He fulfilled most literally were #2 and #3. Indeed the other newspaper went out of business. A larger newspaper absorbed it, “coincidentally” the same week I sold mine. When the job is done, it’s done. So #2 and #3 were checked off.
|Lubec ME, taken from New Brunswick Canada. EPrata photo|
As for #4, finding a home in a more conducive town with the proceeds from selling my business, I’d
intended to move to a more forgiving climate (FL) and/or a place that was God-made for artists, (Lubec ME). I had vacationed in Florida numerous times since I was 18 years old when my father had bought a condo in Palm Beach. As an adult I’d visited Disney World, rented houses in Naples, stayed in hostels, camped, gone on an archaeological expedition to central FL, sailed in it, from it, and around it, motorboated up it; in other words, spent time in Florida in every county and in every vehicle possible.
There was one thing I’d overlooked. I had done all those during the winter months. I’d never been in Florida between April and November. Living that far south would have been a killer for me who hates the heat and humidity. Just when you think you have it all figured out, God knows best (and shows you your flaws in your thinking, too).
|Bundled up in blankets in Lubec watching the 4th of July parade!|
The same goes for Lubec. I’d spent less time there, discovering the little town at the end of the world (at the tip of a peninsula looking at Canada) late in life. I’d vacationed there in July about 6 or 7 times and driven up for day trips a few more times. The natural beauty is astounding, and the remoteness and sparse population seemed perfect for a hermit like me. But the key word is “July”. Once I drove up in October for a weekend with a friend. That’s it. The average high temp in Lubec in July is 74 degrees. You can imagine what the rest of the year is like, me who hates the cold AND the dark.
Yes, I have a narrow tolerable range for light and temp. My husband and I made a global search and discovered Quito Ecuador. The weather page for Ecuador’s capital says “Over the course of a year, the temperature typically varies from 48°F to 69°F and is rarely below 45°F or above 72°F.” The bonus is that there are few flying insects over 5000 feet and Quito is nearly 10,000. So Quito fit my “livable” range for light and temp but there’s no air that high. You can’t have everything.
God in His wisdom led me to north Georgia. He knew what I needed and this bucolic haven of red dirt roads and a church on every corner was exactly what I needed. I did not need the bustle of Florida, nor the heat. I’d wilt. I did not need the dark of remote Lubec, which is extremely economically depressed. I needed sheep and goats and horses and cows and chickens and pastures and green. I needed a place where the manners were high and the values were in large part aligned with God’s. My general theme of #4 was getting at moving to a nicer place, the specifics notwithstanding. God perfectly fulfilled #4, in His timing and in His way.
|Quito Ecuador. EPrata photo|
As for #5, earning money from a creative endeavor, He fulfilled that too, but in His typical manner, a bit different than I’d imagined. In Georgia, right away in God’s grace I found a job working for a daily newspaper writing features and taking photos. I did it for about a year and I discovered that making money from a creative endeavor does two things: increases stress because it’s freelance and the $$ are not steady. And second, it takes the fun out of the creative endeavor. God perfectly fulfilled my desire, and in so doing showed me that it wasn’t such a great desire anyway. I’d desired the desire, not the reality of it.
What He knew is #5 encapsulated the gist of what I wanted: time to be creative. A life structured in such a way so as to not be exhausted from work and have the time and energy to write, photograph, and craft. What I really needed was a regular schedule, fulfilling work that sustained me self-sufficiently, time off to be creative, and to be with children again. I’d formerly been a classroom teacher and unbeknownst to me, I missed kids in my life. A lot. God knew.
He installed me in the local public school system as a substitute and then shortly after I got a job as a para-professional, AKA teacher’s aide. He made it so that I get to work with kids, (fulfilled) have a regular routine, (safety net for an Aspergers), summers off to be creative (life of the mind), with a paycheck that comes year round, (self-sufficient). God is perfect in the way He knows His children and gives them what HE knows they want and need. Check off #5.
|Ministering to Prisoners by Michael Sweerts, c. 1649|
As far as #1 and #6, serving the greater good and a relationship…as a baby Christian, I had a vague notion of “service”. As I looked to the coming year I wanted to activate that, accelerate it, immerse in it. The “greater good” I’d yearned for prior to salvation was crystallized in sanctified service to Jesus in a way that exalts Him and witnesses to fellow man. When I moved to Georgia I joined a church and began ministering through the gifts the Holy Spirit had delivered to me. My work in the school system also serves the greater good, in my opinion, by supporting children educationally and emotionally. Children are near and dear to Jesus.
As far as ‘relationship’ went, that is the item on my list He fulfilled most metaphorically- but He definitely fulfilled. It is not for me to marry again. I understand that now. (1 Corinthians 7:8). But instead, the relationship I’d wanted became one with Jesus, a relationship I’d never have dreamed would be so fulfilling and wonderful.
As far as making life goals goes, I think that is a good thing to do. I don’t believe in ‘let go and let God.’ That is passive. We are to be active in pursuing holiness and actively pursuing a deepening relationship with our Savior. I also believe it is wise to have life goals, for the near term and the far term. We enroll in higher education to attain a higher employment goal, we plan for retirement, we save money for a house. All those are goals. We have goals because we’re human and we need them.
However, if you make a list of goals, don’t allow the goal to become the object of your desire, rather, allow Jesus room to move in your goals and fulfill them in ways you’d have never dreamed of. He knows us better than we know ourselves. He has known each of us who are saved since before the foundation of the world, (Ephesians 1:4). He formed us in the womb. (Jeremiah 1:5, Psalm 139:13).
Each of the goals I’d listed was attended to by Jesus, in marvelous and holy ways. Holy because HE instilled them in me, and in my clumsy way I’d written them down in crude generalities, but all the while, He was working in them to show me His providence and His Hand upon me. Jesus is always working (John 5:17).
The concept of Divine Providence is not explicitly stated but IS the theme of the Book of Esther. shows the providential care of one appointed to a life fulfilling in ways a person at the time would never have dreamed of Esther’s life goals as a young woman, if she had jotted them down on an index card, were in all likelihood to marry, to be near her uncle Mordecai, to do some good in her sphere, to remain faithful to Yahweh, and to grow in obedience and submission to her husband and her God.
|A traveller puts his head under the edge of the firmament
in the original (1888) printing of the Flammarion engraving.
Notice the wheel within a wheel, the machinery of heaven,
perhaps also known as, Divine Providence
God’s name is not mentioned in it, not once. Yet that book
And she did, just not in ways she ever would have thought at the outset.
As a Pharisee, did Saul want to study theology, write and speak great sermons, mentor the brightest minds of his generation, and serve God? He did. Just not in ways that the man who became Apostle Paul ever would have thought at the time.
The Providence of the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit were working in my life since the day I was born, and before. It was working all the days of my life.It was the road my feet trod all the way to meeting the resurrected Savior of the Cross, and beyond. Providence is what it means when we recite this verse:
And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28)
Matthew Henry on the verse:
That is good for the saints which does their souls good. Every providence tends to the spiritual good of those that love God; in breaking them off from sin, bringing them nearer to God, weaning them from the world, and fitting them for heaven. When the saints act out of character, corrections will be employed to bring them back again.
Pulpit Commentary on the verse:
A still further reason for endurance. Not only do these inspired groanings strengthen our hope of deliverance; nay, also we know (whether from God’s Word, or inspired conviction, or experience of their effects) that these very trials that seem to hinder us are so overruled as to further the consummation to them that love God.
My hope of deliverance is strengthened when I believe God’s word when it says Jesus is working in our life. When I have inspired conviction of the same. And this essay shows my experience with the effects. Our Jesus loves us so much.